A London pediatric nurse struggles not to let her job consume her.
Laura is trying to make it through a week of night shifts at the hospital children’s ward. She has time off coming up, if she can just fight her way through the exhaustion to get there. But as the novel begins, Laura’s world is falling apart. The man she lives with—addressed throughout in the second person—has become standoffish and irritable; the fact that they work opposite shifts doesn’t help the drift between them. At work, a baby’s health worsens rapidly, and Laura has to navigate the minefield of patients, their families, the doctors and other nurses she works with, and a cluelessly cheerful med student. She is beset by poor sleep and haunted by nightmares. Worst of all, she is seeing things: a woman in black like the specter of death itself, appearing in the Tube, the hospital, and in Laura’s dreams. As things continue to deteriorate, Laura is less and less sure that her nightmare, waking or otherwise, will ever end. Readers familiar with Glass’ debut novel, Peach (2018), will recognize her inimitable style here: elliptical and lyric with an intense interiority. Glass wants readers inside Laura’s body, tasting seawater in her nightmares of drowning, feeling her limb-heaviness as she falls asleep at a friend’s kitchen table. Such richness makes all of Glass’ writing stand out, but this glimpse into the world of nursing feels like a true literary rarity. Glass, a nurse herself, takes both standard nursing tropes and revelations about the work and brings them all to shimmering life. “We are cotton buds sucking up the sadness of others,” Laura says of nurses, “we are saturated, we are saviors.”
A heart-wrenching and poetic look at a profession that deserves more literary attention.